Thursday, May 26, 2022

Eustace Nderitu: What I’ve learned from taking loans, losing millions

Eustace Nderitu is the founder and managing director at Solani Tours Limited, a tours and travel firm based in Nairobi.

Biggest milestone: Leaving employment to start a business. It was a risky decision but I am proud that I made it. I had desired to be my own boss long before I got employed. When I got a job at a tour company in Nairobi, I determined that I would strive to learn the ropes and later quit to build my own venture. I started with a laptop and a phone which I used to create tour packages and share with friends and associates. It was a slow and sometimes painful growth process, especially in months when the business made zero revenue, but the fruits of my labour have been worth it.

Biggest money mistake: The desire to grow fast led me into a financial crisis. I took an asset financed by a bank at very punitive charges, terms and conditions. The asset, which was quite unnecessary to begin with, and its repayment, drained so much revenue that the business almost crashed. I have since learned to work with what I have and avoid unnecessary debts.

Biggest business loss: A few years ago, we advertised for a Christmas trip to Dubai. 100 people signed up for the trip by the start of the month of October. We initiated the process of acquiring visas by the end of October, which was early enough since the trip was scheduled to commence on December 23. Shockingly, our partners in Dubai did not apply in time, which led to some visa delays. Since we had already paid for flights and accommodations, any visa that wasn’t issued meant that the person would not be going and we would have to incur the loss ourselves. The losses were in millions of money. We later organized a free trip to Dubai as a way of saying sorry to our customers who suffered the setback. This taught me the essence of learning from mistakes to avoid repetition, being hands on, doing thorough research, and admitting and correcting mistakes.

My saving method: I save by reinvesting my earnings in the business. I also put some money aside, which I invest in different companies, and have a Sacco where I save a share of my income and earn dividends in return. Previously, I saved through a savings account, of which I had an ATM card lurking in my pocket. The ATM card has a way of pushing you to a teller machine to make withdrawals even when you don’t really need to.

If I could start all over again: I would start small and grow my business gradually but steadily. I would ensure that I install proper management and general business structures from the word go.

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Entrepreneurship vs employment: I advocate for entrepreneurship because of the freedom that comes with it. With entrepreneurship, you are free to determine what money you will earn based on the level of your output, and the innovation and provision of solutions in your goods or services. This has been the clearest difference between me and the people I left in employment five years ago. I have grown to a level where I partner and have business discourses with corporate leaders who would be my bosses had I not switched from employment. I wouldn’t have acquired the properties and assets that I have acquired had I not jumped into business. The struggle to remain afloat in the sea of business has given me a thick skin and made me a risk taker.

My parting shot: Let people know you for something. If you decide to sing, sing with all your heart. If you decided to sell shoes, forget about selling cars. Life is a journey. You get your turn today, and someone else will get theirs tomorrow. Be humble. Be generous and help where you can. No one got to where they are because they were more special than others. We are all essentially equal as human beings.

This profile feature on Eustace Nderitu, the founder and managing director at Solani Tours Limited, was first published in the Saturday Magazine. The Saturday Magazine is a publication of the Nation Media Group.

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